As I was driving to town to attend mass this morning I was running through plans for the week, trying to remember what appointments I have, what I need to be prepared for, and, especially, looking for blocks of time when my wife and I can spend some time together. I made a note that our parish has its Advent penance service this Thursday evening, and I looked forward to this being something Melinda and I could do together.
Participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation has always been special for me. In the year before I became Catholic, while I was waiting for RCIA to begin and then throughout the formation period, I would go to Confession for “practice”. My friends would tease me about it but it felt good to make my examination of conscience, admit to my lapses in virtue. and to pray for the grace to get better. Unable at that time to receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation seemed to be the best place for me to meet Jesus.
The Gospel for today was from Luke 5:17-26, the Healing of the Paralytic. I listened to our priest read about the healing of the paralyzed man whose friends lowered him from the roof of the house in which Jesus was teaching so that he might meet Jesus and be healed. And, as I pictured in my mind’s eye this man descending on his stretcher, coming closer and closer to Jesus, hoping to be healed, I thought about how it parallels my hope for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. What anticipation he must have felt as he was being lowered to the floor! Then, what joy he must have felt when his paralysis was cured and he stood and walked away carrying his stretcher! I thought, “I know that feeling!”
Then, my thoughts turned away from the paralytic and towards the four friends who cared enough to bring the man to where Jesus was teaching. Their faith was strong enough to not let the crowd obstruct them from arranging for the man to meet Jesus. I knew the true message of this Gospel passage was contained in Jesus’ forgiveness of their sins. Their faith and their love for their disabled friend saved them.
The paralyzed man could not get to Jesus under his own power. Instead, it took friends who loved and cared for him – friends who brought him hope.
I thought about all the people in our parish community, in our country and in the world, who, for one reason or another, are paralyzed in their faith. People who feel their sins are so severe they are too ashamed to admit them to God. Men and women, young and old, who have fallen away from their faith and now don’t think they are worthy of God’s love and forgiveness.
I thought about all these good people, all children of God, who may just need “four friends” to bring them to Christ so they can be relieved of their “paralysis”. More than likely they can make it to church on their own two feet or in their own vehicle, but they just need some encouragement to go to Confession so they can be healed. They might only need to be reminded of the joy that comes from returning to grace and feeling God’s love for them. They may only need someone, like you or me, to rekindle their hope in this Season of Hope.
We may also know someone who truly is “paralyzed” from going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation because they can’t make it on their own steam. Perhaps they are disabled, isolated and lonely, or simply have no vehicle in which to get to church. As faithful friends we are called to reach out, assist, and arrange the means by which they can have their meeting with our Holy Physician.
Every parish in the world is offering a penance service during this season of Advent. I hope that each of you reading this will make it a point to go to Confession to prepare your heart for Christ’s coming. And, I hope that each of you will reach out and be the friend who helps those who are paralyzed, in whatever form, make receiving the Sacrament a reality.
God bless you!
“Lord God, thank You for the actual grace You bestow on us that allows us to come to You for forgiveness. And, thank You for the restoration of our baptismal grace once we do. Lord, help us to be the friends who bring those we love to You so that their loving relationship with You may be rekindled. Amen.”
(Advent: A Season for Healing Spiritual Paralysis was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
©2013-2018 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.